NFC West: Hall of Fame

Strong HOF field makes DeBartolo wait

February, 2, 2013
NEW ORLEANS -- A strong contingent of newly eligible Pro Football Hall of Fame finalists complicated efforts to settle on five modern-era enshrinees for 2013.

I was among the 46 selectors for a fourth year and can tell you it's extremely difficult reducing the field, particularly on the final cut from 10 to five.

Larry Allen, Cris Carter, Jonathan Ogden, Bill Parcells and Warren Sapp were the modern-era candidates left standing this year. The Hall of Fame will enshrine them in Canton, Ohio, this summer.

Allen, Ogden and Sapp were eligible for the first time. Michael Strahan, also a first-timer, made the initial cut to 10 before missing the cut to five.

The strong push by newly eligible candidates contributed to former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. missing the cut from 15 to 10. This is the second year in a row that DeBartolo has made the final 15 without advancing to the final 10. Art Modell, Kevin Greene, Will Shields and Tim Brown also missed the first cut.

While this isn't the end for DeBartolo as a candidate, some voters seem to struggle supporting contributors over players on the final reduction.

Rules allow no more than five modern-era candidates to be enshrined in a single year.

Former St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals great Aeneas Williams made the cut to 10 for the second consecutive year. That's a strong indication voters consider him worthy -- eventually. Cortez Kennedy, for example, earned enshrinement last year after twice making the final 10.

Voters discussed Parcells' candidacy for more than an hour, the longest discussion for any candidate. Rules prevent voters from disclosing more specific details about the proceedings.

Curley Culp and Dave Robinson earned enshrinement as senior candidates.

Andre Reed, Jerome Bettis, Charles Haley, Williams and Strahan missed the cut from 10 to five.
Andy from Des Moines, Iowa asks whether Pro Football Hall of Famers were disproportionately early draft choices.

Mike Sando: Yes, that is definitely the case. The Hall of Fame lists them by round. I also track this information. By my count, 143 of 188 drafted Hall of Famers were chosen in the first three rounds. That is 76.1 percent. That includes 94 first-round selections, 29 second-rounders and 20 third-rounders.

No players drafted after 1995 have been enshrined to this point.

Curtis Martin, named as part of the 2012 class, was a third-round choice in 1995. The previous six drafts have produced eight Hall of Famers, and all eight were first-round choices: Marshall Faulk, Willie Roaf, Cortez Kennedy, Emmitt Smith, Troy Aikman, Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas and Deion Sanders.

Later-round picks fared better long ago, when the draft had many more rounds. The NFL went from 17 to 12 rounds in 1977, then to eight in 1993 and seven the following year.

The chart below shows round-by-round distribution for drafted Hall of Famers since the 1983 class produced six Hall of Famers in the first round, the most for any first round.

Players drafted in first rounds tend to have more talent. They also tend to get every opportunity to succeed. The combination of those factors explains why more of them have found their way to Canton, in my view.

Alexander and beyond: Considering RBs

February, 7, 2012
Statistics can vault a running back into consideration for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

They are not everything in every case, of course, but if you're the the NFL's all-time rushing leader at this point in league history, the case for consideration might not require going much deeper.

As promised, I've broken out where Shaun Alexander and other notable backs from current NFC West franchises stand in relation to 2012 finalists Curtis Martin and Jerome Bettis.

Martin was one of the five players selected for enshrinement. Bettis did not make it this time; he could in the future. It's tempting to evaluate each Hall class as though it reflects a definitive assessment of which players do or do not belong in Canton. But with only five spots for 15 annual modern-era finalists, the process actually plays out over many years.

The best usually candidates get enshrined, and when they do not, they qualify for special consideration by the seniors committee.

Back to the backs. How a runner runs also counts for something. Earl Campbell, one of the most punishing runners in NFL history, earned enshrinement with stats virtually identical to those for Alexander. I was not yet a Hall selector when Campbell was enshrined, but his running style and how it affected his longevity presumably worked in his favor.

Alexander becomes eligible for consideration in 2014.

The chart ranks backs by where they rank on the all-time rushing yardage list. I've also included information for receptions and, in the final column, the number of Pro Bowls and first-team Associated Press All-Pro selections, available on Pro Football Reference. Other factors -- impact as a receiver, postseason success, etc. -- also come into play.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Super Bowl provided a compelling diversion for NFC West fans. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming, which focuses on the Pro Football Hall of Fame class for 2012.

Mark Purdy of the San Jose Mercury News kicks off the coverage by expressing shock over some of the candidates not enshrined this year. Tim Brown, Charles Haley and Eddie DeBartolo Jr. were three such candidates with strong Bay Area ties. Purdy: "Congratulations to the six new Pro Football Hall of Famers. But please pardon those of us who are out here in the tailgate area with the guys who didn't make it, sipping bewilderment beer and still scratching our scalps." Noted: I shared similar feelings before becoming a Hall selector a few years ago. Specifically, I wondered how in the world Cris Carter fell short. It seemed laughable at the time. Having been part of the process, it's much easier to see how these things happen. But there is still shock even among the selectors themselves over certain candidates not making it. We all have our own points of view. The key is to remember that worthy candidates get in eventually, but not all at once. And sometimes, having multiple players at the same position splits votes on the reduction from 10 to five players. That has happened at wide receiver recently, but in looking at the five modern-era finalists enshrined this year, I've got no problem with the group. The others can wait, just as this group did. Their time will come. Having five spots for 15 finalists inevitably means that some fans' favorite candidates will miss the cut in a given year.

Dave Boling of the Tacoma News Tribune explains why he found Cortez Kennedy worthy of Hall enshrinement. Boling: "The Hall selection committee got this one right on Saturday afternoon by recognizing Kennedy as not only an elite defender, but a player who helped change the game as a force of destruction from the interior line."

Clare Farnsworth of checks in with former Seattle linebacker Dave Wyman for thoughts on Kennedy making the Hall as an interior lineman. Farnsworth: "Usually the only people that notice players like that are other players or coaches, or anybody in the NFL that is looking at film. Those defensive tackles are in there doing all the dirty work that’s not really getting their names in the paper. But Tez, he did all that, plus he had all the numbers. He has great statistics for an inside player. It’s just too crowded and there are just too many bodies in there, so it’s just not physically possible most of the time to make plays in there. But Tez did it. Some guys are just able to make that jump to become better pros than they were in college, and those are usually guys who are Hall of Famers."

Brady Henderson of 710ESPN Seattle links to audio for Wyman.

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic offers thoughts on Hall finalist Aeneas Williams while offering insights into the process for enshrinement. Somers: "It often takes players several years to make it to the final 10. Williams did it in his first year as a finalist and his third year of eligibility."

Anwar S. Richardson of checks in with Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald for thoughts on Calvin Johnson's next contract with Detroit. Fitzgerald: "He should (have a higher contract than Fiztgerald). He's at the top of the game right now. He's an extremely, extremely impressive talent. He has no weaknesses. I think that's what makes Calvin so impressive is to be around him. He's a really down-to-Earth guy." Noted: The contract Fitzgerald signed raised the bar for elite wide receivers. Johnson is one of the few with a legitimate case that he has earned at least as much as Fitzgerald commanded, even though Fitzgerald commanded his deal at a time when Arizona could not use the franchise tag on him for leverage.

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch expects the Rams' games in London to continue as scheduled despite initial objections from the St. Louis stadium authority. Thomas: "The Rams are scheduled to play New England on Oct. 28 at Wembley Stadium. In an agreement announced late last month, the Rams are to play a regular-season home game in London in each of the next three seasons. But the CVC pointed out a week later that the lease terms prohibited the Rams from playing home games anywhere but the Edward Jones Dome. The contention over the London games came at a time when the Rams and the CVC were exchanging proposals over possible upgrades to the Dome as part of the lease agreement. If the Dome is not considered a 'first tier' facility, the Rams could break their lease after the 2014 season. As a result of that impasse, ticket sales for next year's game were temporarily postponed. But as a result of Sunday's developments it will be a short-lived postponement."
INDIANAPOLIS -- Thirteen modern-era NFL players were finalists for enshrinement Saturday in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Only one was named offensive or defensive player of the year during his career.

That was the Seattle Seahawks' Cortez Kennedy. His eight Pro Bowls, all-1990s selection and overall dominance made my job as his presenter quite simple. State the facts and let Kennedy's career do the talking. Picking the final five out of 15 modern-era finalists is always tough, however, because it usually requires leaving off worthy candidates.

[+] EnlargeCortez Kennedy
US PresswireNo doubt, Seattle's Cortez Kennedy was one of the most dominant defensive players of his era.
The 43 other selectors and I met for more than seven hours before identifying Kennedy, Chris Doleman, Dermontti Dawson, Curtis Martin and Willie Roaf as the class of 2012. Jack Butler made it as a seniors candidate.

A few thoughts on the process and the results:

  • This class made it through at a good time. Larry Allen, Michael Strahan, Jonathan Ogden, Warren Sapp, Bryant Young, John Lynch and Steve McNair become eligible for the first time in 2013. Shaun Alexander, Derrick Brooks, Marvin Harrison, Rodney Harrison, Tony Dungy and Mike Holmgren join the list in 2014. Isaac Bruce, Edgerrin James, Walter Jones, Junior Seau, Chris Samuels, Kurt Warner, Ty Law and Orlando Pace are among those eligible beginning in 2015.
  • Former St. Louis Rams
    and Arizona Cardinals
    cornerback Aeneas Williams should feel great about cracking the final 10 in his first year as a finalist. Williams had 55 career interceptions and scored nine touchdowns. He was a big-time playmaker for bad and good teams alike.
  • The situation at receiver remains a mess and it's not going to get easier with Harrison becoming eligible in a couple years. Voters are having a tough time deciding between Cris Carter and Andre Reed. Both made the final 10 this year. Reed made the final 10 last year as well. Having both crack the final 10 this year made it harder for one of them to break through. Voters were more likely to choose one wideout when forced to pick only five players.
  • Former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. did not make the reduction from 15 to 10. I think it's tougher for voters to quantify how owners and even coaches -- think Bill Parcells, who missed the cut from 10 to five -- contributed to their teams' success. The discussions for Parcells (55-plus minutes) and DeBartolo (42-plus minutes) were more than twice as long as the discussions for other candidates. Hall bylaws prevented voters from considering the legal troubles and suspension that preceded DeBartolo's exit from the game.
  • DeBartolo was a finalist in part because he hired Bill Walsh, promoted a winning culture, cared tremendously for his players and helped win five Super Bowls. He spent this weekend with former 49ers player Freddie Solomon, who is in the final days of a battle with cancer. The 49ers' renewed success this past season also reflected well on DeBartolo, who has become a tremendous resource for current team president Jed York, his nephew.
  • Electing one pass-rusher (Doleman, who spent part of his career with the 49ers) to the Hall could give former 49ers and Dallas Cowboys pass-rusher Charles Haley an easier time in the future. But with Strahan joining the conversation in 2013, Haley faces stiff competition again. Former Rams pass-rusher Kevin Greene did not make the final 10 despite 160 career sacks.

It's been a whirlwind day. Hall bylaws prevent me from sharing specifics about what was said in the room during the proceedings. The Hall also asked voters not to reveal their votes outright. I voted for five of the six players enshrined on the final cut and supported others. As always, however, reducing to only five in the end required leaving off candidates I hope will make it in the future.
CANTON, Ohio -- When was the last time you heard the name Roland Williams?

What about Ernie Conwell or Ricky Proehl?

[+] EnlargeMarshall Faulk
AP Photo/Paul SakumaMarshall Faulk finished his career with more than 19,000 yards from scrimmage and 136 touchdowns.
Even Mike Martz, who is under fire in Chicago, got some love during Marshall Faulk's Hall of Fame speech Saturday night at Fawcette Stadium. Faulk credited many people and former teammates. But the Rams of the late-1990s and early-2000s mostly defined Faulk's career.

Spending most of his career under the tutelage Martz and Dick Vermeil in St. Louis, Faulk (19,154 yards) finished fourth all-time in yards from scrimmage behind Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Walter Payton.

Martz made Faulk into the secret weapon. Martz found ways to get Faulk the ball in the running game, out of the backfield and also lined up as a receiver. Faulk became the new gold standard for all-purpose backs.

"Before Aaron Rodgers threw the ball [39] times in the Super Bowl against a vaunted Steelers defense, and before his counterpart Ben Roethlisberger threw it [40 times]. ... we had Mike Martz," Faulk explained. "The 'Mad Scientist' is what they called him."

Faulk also thanked former Rams stars like Kurt Warner and Isaac Bruce. They are among the cogs that made the "Greatest Show on Turf" great and well ahead of its time.

Today most offenses will throw 40 times in a game at some point during the season. But none of those teams have another Marshall Faulk.

Remember Faulk, but don't forget Pace

August, 1, 2011
The ever-thoughtful Isaac Bruce departed from convention when answering questions about former St. Louis Rams teammate Marshall Faulk.

Bruce, answering questions about Faulk's Hall of Fame career while at Rams camp this week, set aside proper respect for another icon from the Greatest Show on Turf days.

Was Faulk the one irreplaceable part of that offense?

"You know what, I always said it would be hard to replace him, but I always thought Orlando Pace was the guy that we just couldn’t afford to lose at all," Bruce told reporters. "He was the anchor. If you look at the whole core, everything beginning and starting with the offensive line, he was that guy we couldn’t afford to lose, but Marshall was the engine and you can’t drive a car without the engine."

Bruce has been helping coaches at camp this week. He remains undecided about coaching on a full-time basis, citing the long hours that would take him away from his family, including his 19-month-old daughter.
Just what Seattle Seahawks fans want to read: a piece from NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert analyzing Steve Hutchinson's prospects for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.



I might have to consider a piece asking whether anyone at Renton City Hall near Seahawks headquarters would recognize Hutchinson's many successors at left guard.

If Hutchinson does become a Hall of Famer, however, he'll do so largely for his accomplishments during the best years in Seahawks history, culminating with the 2005 Super Bowl season. Seatte fans stung by Hutchinson's controversial departure through a loophole in the transition tag can take some solace in that if Hutchinson does earn enshrinement -- or even if he does not.

The years Hutchinson spent playing between left tackle Walter Jones and center Robbie Tobeck will surely rank as the most memorable and satisfying of his career. Those Seattle teams won playoff games and developed camaraderie through continuity. Hutchinson has played in three playoff games, winning one, during five seasons with Minnesota. He played in five, winning two, with Seattle. The Seahawks, for all their struggles since losing Hutchinson, own a 3-3 playoff record since his departure.

Hutchinson's seven Pro Bowls and appearance on the all-decade team for the 2000s does put him in the conversation for Hall of Fame status.

As Seifert notes, guards elected to the Hall of Fame often faced extended waits for enshrinement. Larry Allen, who finished his career with the San Francisco 49ers, might rank atop my initial list of the guards listed among Hutchinson's contemporaries. Has there been a more physically dominant guard?
Jerry Rice goes into the Hall of Fame Saturday and it seems like he's been there 10 years already.

Twenty, even.

Jerry Rice
US PresswireJerry Rice holds the record for most receptions (1,549) receiving yards (22,895) and receiving TDs (197).
"He is a Hall of Famer who is still a very young receiver," said Mel Blount, himself a Hall of Famer, back in 1990.

In Rice's case, the five-year waiting period for Hall of Fame consideration seemed to begin when Rice was a rookie in 1985, not when he finally retired two decades later. Almost, anyway. Rice wasn't perfect. He did suffer through some rookie drops and fans booed him. He came to regret holding out for a new contact in 1992. He hung on a little too long, finishing regrettably with the Seattle Seahawks and even going to camp with the Denver Broncos.

But if you're looking for the perfect NFL player, you'll struggle to find anyone better than Jerry Lee Rice. Some protested when I held up Rice as the greatest player in NFL history, but Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis stated the case simply.

"I don't know what argument you're going to make why he is not," Lewis said during Super Bowl week.

It's probably safer to say Rice enjoyed the greatest career in league history. At the very least, we can agree it's impossible to have the Greatest of All Time debate without strongly considering the player Blount declared a Hall of Famer two decades before Rice was even eligible.

My favorite Rice stat: He had 1,000 receptions for 13,546 yards and 102 touchdowns after he turned 30. Marvin Harrison, Cris Carter and Terrell Owens are the only other players with career totals that high for all three categories.

Mel Blount declared Rice a Hall of Famer five years into Rice's career. Rice later achieved more after his 30th birthday than all but a few receivers.

Granted, the game changed and passing stats suffered from inflation. Rice benefited from the changes. He also revolutionized or at least foreshadowed the way NFL athletes trained to maximize their potential, extend their career and rewrite record books.

Rice turns 48 in October and there's no realistic way his body could hold up to the rigors of the NFL at this stage, or he'd still be playing. But if a team needed a receiver for only one game, Rice would probably come through just fine.

"Yeah, I still work out hard," Rice said recently. "I am running probably in a week's time about maybe 20 miles or something like that. I still go to the gym. I do my lifting. I might be on the VersaClimber or the treadmill 45 minutes to an hour. This is something that has been a part of my life and something I enjoy doing. I am going to continue doing it. I haven't really took any time off. I enjoy working out and I am working just as hard as when I played professional football."

Rice still runs the trail he made legendary as a player. The competitiveness is still there, too (Rice even briefly tried pro golf). He'll probably never kick back and relax voluntarily.

Here's hoping Rice can slow down enough Saturday to rest on his laurels, if only for an afternoon. He's earned it.
Walter Jones' retirement from the NFL, expected to be announced Thursday, could create NFC West drama when Hall of Fame voters get together in five years.

Jones could have company among elite former NFC West players eligible for the first time.

Former Rams tackle Orlando Pace, cut by the Bears, would be eligible at the same time if another team does not sign him. Former Rams and Cardinals quarterback Kurt Warner has already announced his retirement. Former Rams and 49ers receiver Isaac Bruce appears headed for retirement.

The chart breaks out some of their career achievements, sorted by Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro appearances.

Orlando Pace's release from the Bears and possible retirement sets up a potentially star-studded Hall of Fame ballot in 2015.

Quite a few of those eligible for the first time could have strong NFC West ties.

Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, Pace, Walter Jones and Edgerrin James all could be eligible that year for the first time if 2009 was their last season. Another name to consider: Junior Seau. And let's not forget about Brett Favre, if he retires.

We have seen highly productive wide receivers wait for enshrinement. Jones, Pace and Warner would probably have the best chance among the NFC West crop, but it's difficult to know how these Hall of Fame discussions might play out. I was a voter this year for the first time and can say minds change within that room based on the research presented and the discussions that ensue.

Craig, Haley, Kennedy and the Hall

February, 3, 2010
Dan Brown of the San Jose Mercury News spoke with former 49ers offensive lineman Guy McIntyre regarding the Hall of Fame candidacies of Roger Craig and Charles Haley.

McIntyre backed both players strongly.

Sometimes it's helpful to speak with players' opponents.

Steve Wisniewski, the Raiders' retired eight-time Pro Bowl guard, helped out Wednesday when I asked him to contribute thoughts on Cortez Kennedy, another Hall of Fame finalist.

"I have already contributed to his sack total," Wisniewski joked.

Hall of Fame voting is Saturday, with results scheduled to be announced at 5 p.m. ET.

"Cortez was the most dominant interior lineman that we ever faced and certainly the very best against the run," Wisniewski said. "He had that ability to stop the run, to play with leverage, and have the quickness to hit the edge of an offensive guard and split the seams to put pressure on the quarterback."
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Was Jerry Rice the greatest player in NFL history?

The earlier item exploring Hall of Fame credentials for 2010 finalists with NFC West ties raised the possibility.

"Come on," blog regular redzone59 replied. "You could argue he was the greatest player at his position ..."

I've had that conversation and it wasn't even close. Rice was the consensus choice as the NFL's top receiver.

Give me your greatest player in history and tell me where Rice does not measure up. Is there another player who was, without a doubt, the absolute best player at his position in the history of the game?

I'll revisit this one later in the week, referencing some of the more compelling comments left here. Thanks in advance.

Discussing Hall of Fame credentials

February, 1, 2010
MIAMI -- Hall of Fame voters will consider nine 2010 finalists with ties to current NFC West teams.

I'll be presenting the case for Cortez Kennedy during the proceedings Saturday as the geographic representative for the Seattle market.

Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesFormer Seahawks defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy is a candidate for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Two things about Kennedy have jumped out during my research:
  • Kennedy was a great every-down player. Kennedy played at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps from 1991 to 1996, including 97.22 percent in 1994. He was a force against run and pass alike, not just a situational player or one-dimensional player.
  • Kennedy and Hall of Famer Randy White are the only defensive tackles in NFL history with at least 150 starts, 50 sacks and eight Pro Bowls.

I'd like to use this forum to solicit your thoughts on Kennedy and the eight other finalists with ties to current NFC West teams. I'll single out a note or two on each player here to help get the conversation going (while fully recognizing that some of these players enjoyed most of their success for teams outside the division):
  • Jerry Rice, 49ers WR. Arguably the greatest player in NFL history.
  • Roger Craig, 49ers RB. One of three players in NFL history with 8,000 yards rushing, 4,900 yards receiving, 70 total touchdowns and four Pro Bowls. Marcus Allen and Marshall Faulk are the others.
  • Richard Dent, 49ers DL. One of three players in NFL history with at least 135 sacks and 35 forced fumbles. Bruce Smith and Chris Doleman are the others.
  • Charles Haley, 49ers OLB/DE. One of 10 players in NFL history with 100 sacks, 25 forced fumbles and five Pro Bowls.
  • Rickey Jackson, 49ers linebacker. One of five players in NFL history with at least 125 sacks and 40 forced fumbles. Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Doleman and Jason Taylor are the others.
  • John Randle, Seahawks DT. One of five players in NFL history with185 starts, 135 sacks and seven Pro Bowls.
  • Don Coryell, Cardinals coach. Helped change the way teams played offense in the passing game, which helped revolutionize how defenses responded.
  • Emmitt Smith, Cardinals RB. All-time NFL rushing leader.
  • Russ Grimm, Redskins guard (and current Cardinals assistant coach). Arguably the best player on the most famous offensive line in NFL history.

Kurt Warner's Hall of Fame checklist

January, 15, 2010

Chris Morrison-US PRESSWIRE
Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner is making a strong case to get into Canton.
Arizona Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt announced a fateful decision Aug. 30, 2008.

Kurt Warner had beaten out Matt Leinart as the starting quarterback. It was big news at the time.

"If you look at just our (2007) season where we ended up playing three (quarterbacks), I think it is a pretty high percentage that Matt is going to play this year at some point for us," Whisenhunt said heading into that 2008 season.

At that stage of his career, Warner was still convincing coaches he could limit turnovers well enough to make all those touchdown passes matter more. Though he had led the NFL in touchdowns over the second half of the 2007 season, he was still breaking free from a five-year period featuring 27 touchdowns, 30 interceptions and questions about his viability.

Seventeen months since Whisenhunt chose his starting quarterback, Warner has helped his coach rank among the greats in postseason winning percentage. Counting playoffs, Warner has thrown 72 touchdown passes with 31 interceptions and a 23-13 starting record over the past two seasons.

Instead of debating whether Warner should start over Leinart, the more relevant question has become whether Warner deserves Hall of Fame induction once his career is finished. The case is getting stronger by the week.

An updated look at his Canton credentials:

1. Longevity.

The great quarterbacks had staying power. Warner has played in 124 regular-season games, about 60 fewer than the average for the 14 quarterbacks enshrined over the last 25 years. This is one of the few categories where Warner doesn't measure up.

On the other hand, Roger Staubach played only seven more games. Like Warner, he was an elite big-game quarterback. No one questions Staubach's Hall of Fame credentials. And Warner, playing in a pass-happy era he helped christen, certainly has better stats.

2. Production.

Here is where Warner's relatively short game log works to his advantage. He has put up Hall of Fame-caliber numbers in less time than players already enshrined. His offenses in St. Louis scored 526, 540 and 503 points in consecutive seasons, setting a standard that holds up well across any era.

Of those 14 quarterbacks enshrined since 1985, none could match Warner in completion percentage, yards per attempt or yards per game. Steve Young is the only one with a higher passer rating than Warner. Dan Marino is the only one with more 300-yard games (Warner has 52, twice as many as Jim Kelly, who played in 36 additional games).

3. Postseason success.

Only Bart Starr (104.8) has a higher postseason passer rating than Warner (104.6) among NFL quarterbacks all time. Warner closed the gap to within a couple tenths of a rating point with his five-touchdown, zero-interception performance against the Packers in the wild-card round.

Warner has averaged 312.3 yards per postseason game, most in league history. And unlike the other four players in the top five on that list, Warner has won a Super Bowl. He has played in three of them, posting the three highest yardage totals in the game's history.

Joe Montana, Tom Brady, Terry Bradshaw, John Elway, Brett Favre, Troy Aikman and Staubach are the only quarterbacks with more postseason victories than Warner.

Warner, with a 9-3 record in postseason, needs two more victories to match Aikman and Staubach on the all-time list. Beating the Saints in the divisional round Saturday would move Warner out of a tie with Starr (9-1), Donovan McNabb (9-7) and Kelly (9-8) for sole possession of eighth place on the list.

Warner has passed for at least 365 yards in half his 12 playoff starts. No other quarterback has hit that mark more than three times in postseason (Peyton Manning). Warner owns three of the 23 postseason performances in which a quarterback threw at least four touchdown passes (Montana, Manning and Daryle Lamonica each did it twice).

4. Unique legacy.

Warner's rise from supermarket shelf stocker to Super Bowl hero gives his legacy another dimension. Leading two previously dormant franchises to the Super Bowl also separates Warner from the typical Hall of Fame candidate.

Not many Hall of Famers would lose jobs to Marc Bulger and a young Eli Manning before working feverishly to beat out Leinart. A thumb injury doomed Warner in St. Louis. The Giants and Cardinals weren't going to leave a first-round choices on the bench (Warner's passer rating with New York, by the way, was higher than any Manning posted until this season).

It's been a strange career for Warner, no question.

"Regardless of how it happened, I just think Kurt has done things that I don’t know anyone else has done," Young told Bernie Miklasz during a recent radio interview.

It's tough to write the history of the game without sharing Warner's remarkable story.